Atlantic City has flown under the radar as a golf destination for years, with heavyweights such as Myrtle Beach and Ocean City gobbling up much of the attention.
But with golf suitable for every budget and level of playing ability, Atlantic City's 25 regional courses (13 of which are less than a 20-minute drive) offer variety and a fully customizable trip. Having lived within driving distance of the casino destination all my life, I've had the chance to play quite a few of the gems in this part of the state.
First, with 12 casino hotels (including Revel, which will open in March, 2012), and many off-site options, Atlantic City has the nightlife and non-golf activities that so many other locations are lacking. Gambling, dining, drinking: What more can you ask for after a day on the links?
Second is the quality of golf. For a 3-4 day trip, you'll run out of days long before you run out of good options. While I haven't played them all, here's a brief recap of some of the options. If there's a place not listed here, it's not a slight, it just means I haven't played there or heard enough from reliable sources to include it in this list.
So without further adieu, The Subpar Golf Blog's Atlantic City Must-Play List:
• Atlantic City Country Club: Without a doubt, one of the best courses in the state of New Jersey, public or private. ACCC, built in 1897 is a fantastic example of classic golf architecture. ACCC should be on any list of America's greatest seaside golf course.
• Twisted Dune: It's been a few years since playing this gem, but it continues to rack up high praise. Dramatic holes leave a lasting impression, yet this design is imminently playable.
• Harbor Pines: Architect Stephen Kay built this track with the masses in mind, at the request of ownership. He succeeds in laying out 18 holes that are fun and playable for someone shooting 100, but won't be a pushover for someone who usually breaks 80. Tough greens provide a nice defense, yet wide, forgiving fairways keep it enjoyable for golfers who aren't on the top of their games.
• Vineyard Golf at Renault: While this remains on my personal must-play list, I hear great things about this course from those whose opinions I trust. Built alongside the Renault Winery, this track has gotten rave reviews since opening in 2004 and one I look forward to seeing with my own eyes.
• Blue Heron Pines: This course traditionally boasts some of the best conditions in the state, and a fun playable design will be enjoyable by a group of golfers regardless of their handicaps.
• Seaview: As part of a sprawling resort, Seaview's 36 holes of golf have long contended for the crown of best golf in the Atlantic City region. The Bay course hosted an LPGA Tour event and many say that the Pines is the tougher test of the two. A massive practice facility as well as other recreational facilities would make this an ideal spot for families and anyone looking to stay someplace away from the hustle and bustle of the casinos.
• Sand Barrens: While this is starting to get a little further away from AC, Sand Barrens is a real test. It has been a while since I've been there, but having played it twice, I can't help but include it on the short list of toughest tracks I have played. It's worth playing, but be forewarned, it won't be a walk in the park.
• Shore Gate: Another course that I've yet to personally play, but its accolades have poured in and I look forward to playing it sometime soon. It's a bit of a drive from the casinos, but by all accounts, it's worth the drive.
• Scotland Run: While it's nearly an hour outside Atlantic City, this course deserves a mention thanks to a fun, challenging and flat-out spectacular design. Most noteworthy are the holes built around a quarry, and conditions that have been pristine in all my previous experiences there.
• McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links: This was a go-to course for me through the years as it offered quite a bit of bang for the buck. I'm also a sucker for Stephen Kay's tribute design here, where he models each hole after a famous hole on a British links course.
There are more than a dozen more courses in the region, but I simply haven't played them enough, or heard first-hand accounts to include them in this list. Have thoughts on someplace I need to see, or want to add your own suggestion? Please add it to the comments below.
Think I'm way off base with my picks? Let me know! But at the end of the day, find your way to Atlantic City for a few days. You'll leave feeling well-golfed and well-fed, and hopefully a little heavier in the wallet after some time at the tables.